Agenda 21, also referred to as Earth Summit, is an all-inclusive plan of action that is to be completed globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, governments, and major environmental groups in every area in which humans impact the environment. Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Statement of principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests were all adopted by more than 178 governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development that was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil June 13-14, 1992.
The Commission on Sustainable Development was created in December 1992 to ensure successful follow-up of UNCED and to monitor and report on execution of the agreements at all levels. All 178 governments agreed that a special session of the United Nations General Assembly would be called in 1997 to review the progress of Agenda
21 after a 5-year introduction period. The full implementation of Agenda 21 was reaffirmed at the World Summit
on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg, South Africa from August 26 - September 4, 2002.
Agenda 21 is not just about making improvements in “nature”. It also includes plans of action regarding poverty, hunger, ill health, illiteracy, as well as the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems. The success of Agenda 21 is contingent upon integration of environmental and developmental concerns and greater attention to them. It is also dependant upon the fulfillment of basic needs, improved living standards
for all, and better protected and managed ecosystems. Only if this is accomplished can we be assured a safer, more prosperous future. No nation can achieve this alone, however; if all nations
work together to construct a global partnership for sustainable development, we can achieve the goals set forth in Agenda 21
Agenda 21 concentrates on the urgent problems of today and also aspires to prepare the world for the challenges of the next century. It reflects a global agreement and political commitment at the highest level on development and environment teamwork. Its successful completion is first and foremost the responsibility of Governments. National strategies, plans, policies and processes are essential in accomplishing this. International cooperation should support and supplement such national efforts. In this context, the United Nations system has a key role to play. Other international, regional and sub regional organizations are also called upon to contribute to this effort. The broadest public participation and the active involvement of the non-governmental organizations and other groups should also be encouraged.
Agenda 21 constitutes a plan of action for the 90s and the first part of the XXI century, and is the global alliance of Humanity in favor of the environment and development, in other words, sustainable development.
Agenda 21 is an extensive structural document consisting of 40 chapters drawn up in the form of a plan of action. It is a project of actions for development to be socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.
Humanity stands at a defining moment in history. We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between and within nations, a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being; however, integration of environment and development concerns and greater attention to them will lead to the fulfillment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems and a safer, more prosperous future. No nation can achieve this alone; but together we can - in a global partnership for sustainable development.
Agenda 21 addresses the pressing problems of today and also aims at preparing the world for the challenges of the next century. It reflects a global consensus and political commitment at the highest level on development and environment cooperation. Its successful implementation is first and foremost the responsibility of Governments. National strategies, plans, policies and processes are crucial in achieving this. International cooperation should support and supplement such national efforts. In this context, the United Nations system has a key role to play. Other international, regional and sub regional organizations are also called upon to contribute to this effort. The broadest public participation and the active involvement of the non-governmental organizations and other groups should also be encouraged.
The developmental and environmental objectives of Agenda 21 will require a substantial flow of new and additional financial resources to developing countries, in order to cover the incremental costs for the actions they have to undertake to deal with global environmental problems and to accelerate sustainable development. Financial resources are also required for strengthening the capacity of international institutions for the implementation of Agenda 21. An indicative order-of-magnitude assessment of costs is included in each of the programmed areas. This assessment will need to be examined and refined by the relevant implementing agencies and organizations.
In the implementation of the relevant programmed areas identified in Agenda 21, special attention should be given to the particular circumstances facing the economies in transition. It must also be recognized that these countries are facing unprecedented challenges in transforming their economies, in some cases in the midst of considerable social and political tension.
The programmed areas that constitute Agenda 21 are described in terms of the basis for action, objectives, activities and means of implementation. Agenda 21 is a dynamic program. It will be carried out by the various actors according to the different situations, capacities and priorities of countries and regions in full respect of all the principles contained in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. It could evolve over time in the light of changing needs and circumstances. This process marks the beginning of a new global partnership for sustainable development.
“Agenda 21” is based on the premise that sustainable development is not
merely an option; it is imperative. This is as true in the environmental as it
is in the economic sense, and although the transition toward sustainable
development will be difficult, it is totally viable. It requires a major change
in the priorities of governments and citizens, involving a complete
integration of environmental facets into economic policy and decision-taking at all levels of activity. Further, it will take a notable reorientation of human and financial resources at the national and international levels. This global alliance is essential for the global Community to take a new road to a more sustainable, secure and equal future as we head toward the 21st century. The primary responsibility of our common future is, strictly speaking, “in our hands”. ( Maurice F. Strong General Secretary of the United Nation)